Do Older Septic Systems Require More Frequent Service?

If you own an older home, you know that many items can become higher maintenance as they age. Roofing, siding, HVAC equipment, and appliances all tend to suffer more failures as they reach an advanced age, requiring more frequent planned and unplanned maintenance. Plumbing is no exception, but what about your home's septic system? 

A typical septic system can last for many years, but it's unlikely that even a well-built and well-maintained system will outlive its attached home. However, it's natural to want to keep your system for as long as possible and avoid a costly replacement. So, what should you know about maintaining an aging system, and should you start thinking about scheduling more frequent service visits?

Why Do Septic Systems Fail?

Septic systems consist of two central components: the storage tank and the drain (or leaching) field. While these two components certainly affect each other, they won't necessarily fail simultaneously or for the same reasons. For example, a concrete septic tank may fail due to leaks, cracks, or physical damage, while leaching fields often fail due to poor maintenance or overloading.

Since concrete tanks are relatively durable, failures often occur in the leaching field first. Excess waste (especially solids) that flows from the tank can eventually clog the drain medium, creating an anaerobic environment that prevents efficient waste treatment. As a result, the field begins to clog, causing effluent to backflow into the tank and, eventually, into the home.

How Can You Delay System Failure?

There's no way to avoid the eventual failure of a septic system leaching field, although they can last for many decades. Instead, good habits can help delay the inevitable and maximize the value you receive from your septic system. Routine and frequent septic pumping appointments are the best way to prevent solids from entering and contaminating the leaching field.

Your service plan should also include inspections, either at every pumping appointment or every other pumping appointment. Inspections help you spot problems early and address them before they lead to a cascade of failures that can clog your septic system and lead to its eventual failure. Flushing only waste, paper, and water down your drains will also help preserve your system.

What Changes As Your System Ages?

No matter how well you take care of your septic system, it will degrade, lose efficiency, and eventually fail. If your septic system has many decades under its belt, you may want to consider scheduling more frequent tank pumping. Older systems will have more extensive bacterial mats in their leaching fields, potentially making them more sensitive to minor overflows from overfilled tanks.

If in doubt, ask your septic service company to perform an inspection during your next pumping service. An inspection can help determine if you need to increase the frequency of your septic system pumping services, helping you to avoid a clogged tank that can potentially remove years from your system's lifespan.

Reach out to a septic system service company for more information.